The third volume in this series of commentaries examines the Great Throne Visions, which begin and end in Heaven. Between these poignant moments we are introduced to the players which appear periodically throughout a woeful succession of catastrophic Judgments. This procession of visions begins with the Prophet “looking” once again into the future. The term looked [Gk. Ειδον] indicates a renewal of the prophetic infusion. The word means not only “to look,” but also “to see,” and “to know.” It is the looking of the Seer. Having entered the visionary state, John urges the reader to follow him. “Behold!” he cries. “Look and See!” With this utterance John invites us to participate in his symbolic and dreamlike vision. The first thing he directs our attention to is a door suddenly standing open in the sky.Among the first things the Prophet saw when he peered through to the door was the Twenty-four Elders.
“And encircling the Throne were twenty-four other thrones. And upon these thrones resided Twenty-four Elders, arrayed in white garments and wearing upon their heads golden crowns.” Revelation 4:4
We are not told how long John gazed upon the dazzling and splendorous beauty of the Occupant of the Throne. We only know that at some point the prophet became aware of several mysterious figures surrounding the Throne. Before his astonished eyes a series of strange and highly symbolic images begin to emerge from the cosmic background. The first Personages to appear were 24 “Elders”, seated upon thrones that encircled the centralized Throne of the Deity. These strange individuals are followed by four enigmatic creatures that are even more obscure. Heretofore in the visions the characters presented by John have merely been mysterious. At this point they become downright strange, perhaps even nightmarish and frightening. Who are these marvelous creatures, described by the King James translators as “Beasts,” and by the more recent translators as “Living Creatures”? What is their symbolic meaning, and why are they introduced into the vision at this time?
“And in the center of the circle which surrounded the Throne were Four Living Ones, covered with eyes in front and in back. And the first Living One was like a lion, and the second Living One was like an ox, and the third Living One had the appearance of a man, and the fourth Living One was like an eagle in flight. Each of the Four Living Ones had six wings which were covered with eyes above and below. And day and night, without pause, they utter this song: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming.” Revelation 4:6-8